Garden Diary - April 2014

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014
Little Bulbs of Early Spring

A long cold winter and lots of snow kept many expected early harbingers of Spring from making their anticipated appearance in a timely manner. But now they are here, and very welcome indeed. Towards the end of March there were some snowdrops and winter aconites. Ten days later, and the little bulbs are rushing to make an appearance. I went over to my friend Jerry's garden to see what was in flower. Lots of pretty things, different from what's here at BelleWood Gardens. Mine is primarily a woodland garden. Jerry has a sunnier place, and a rock garden with better drained soil.

What a perfect combination of rich blue iris and a deep purple form of Crocus tommasinianus

A label, if there was one, has long since disappeared. So this charming bulbous iris, a cultivar (cultivated variety) of Iris reticulata, which might be a cross with I. histrioides, is a mystery. No matter, it is beautiful.

But we're sure of her. 'Katharine Hodgkin' is distinct, unique, very beautiful - and very recognizable.

Might be 'Whitwell Purple', which is generally available, or it could be 'Ruby Giant', another form with darker flowers than the smoky lavender of the species. This is, by the way, the only crocus species I'm aware of which does accept some shade. All the rest prefer sunshine.

Sold by the mixed bagful, the crocus that thrive in peoples' lawns are the "Dutch hybrid crocus." They're developed from Crocus vernus, with some admixtures here and there.

If you have ever planted these and discovered that those with yellow flowers all make an appearance before the purple / striped / white ones, that's attributable to their C. ancyrensis parentage. 'Cloth of Gold' crocus is earlier

As long as the deer and rabbits cannot nibble off their tops, or the voles devour their underground corms, crocus will happily multiply and make an ever increasing display. Plant them in your lawn, though, and you'll need to wait until their leaves mature and wither away before mowing.

'Pickwick' is a charmer, with its lightly striped purple, lavender flowers.

Early Spring, and the little bulbs make a welcome display.

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